Delaney’s Enviable Confidence

Delaney sewing on her grandmother's Singer

I’m not a teacher,  but I’ve done some teaching.  20 years ago I taught a friend how to sew a dress using a pattern. I taught beginning sculpture in graduate school and I taught my mother to drive when she was 65 years old  (that was definitely the scariest).

Last week while Jon and I were painting at the new house Mandy  and her daughters Marliegh (who drove Red from Virginia to Bedlam Farm) and Delaney came by.   As I was showing them the house, Delaney turned to me and asked if I would teach her to sew and in return she would help out at the new house.  Although teaching makes me a bit nervous,  I didn’t even have to think about it.  I love the idea of showing someone how to sew who wants to learn. ( and honestly, I was impressed just that she asked me)   Delaney’s a great kid, I had a feeling it would be good for both of us.

So yesterday, Delaney showed up at the studio with her grandmother’s 1956 Singer.   When I first started sewing, I used one just like it, my mothers.  (She bought her’s in the 1940’s.)  The good part about them is they last forever, and are simple to use.  The not so good part, is they are often slow and clunky, the thread is always getting jammed, and the tension is hard to adjust.    Of course, it’s more than just a machine, it’s the story behind it and the emotion connected to it.

I teach the way I like to be taught. Show me what to do and give me space to do it, but be close enough to answer questions, any questions. I think the last thing a student needs is someone looking over her shoulder, telling her what she’s doing wrong.  This  worked great with Delaney, she has an enviable confidence from picking out the fabrics and designing a patchwork piece, to working the machine.

The other things I think about when teaching is being  patient, making the whole experience as enjoyable as possible,(with my mother this meant getting a cup of coffee and muffin before she started driving)   and choosing which mistakes to point out and when to  do it.   I teach just enough of the technical stuff to get started, everyone learns what they need to when they need to know it. And maybe most important is to be encouraging.

By the time Delaney was ready  to go home, (an  hour and a half later, which felt like 10 minutes) I could hear she had control over the machine.  The stitches coming at a slow and steady pace.  She had pieced together a patch that could easily have been made into a pillow.  She took some fabric with her to do more sewing at home and said she’d  text me after her soccer camp was over to have another lesson.  She was still talking to me when I drove her home.

I take all these as a sign that I did an okay job.  I hope so, it’s a big responsibility trying to teach someone something new. (I think of the ballet teacher I had in kindergarten,  who stamped her cane on the floor with her  every word and cured me of wanting to be a ballerina)  Not only that, I really enjoyed it.

Delaney pinning her "squares" together

27 thoughts on “Delaney’s Enviable Confidence

  1. Oh my goodness, I have the same sewing machine. It was my mama’s. She passed away in 2006 and it is one of my most cherished possessions. It still works great and every time I use it, I see her at the foot of her bed, sitting on the lid and sewing away. I see her hands as she works the machine teaching me all the funny quirks that the machine has. She always broke the thread with her teeth and I find myself doing the same thing. Isn’t is great how a picture will evoke such wonderful memories? Thank you for posting it!

  2. Maria, you are a natural teacher! I thank you for sharing sewing with one more person! I love to see folks learn to sew…at any age! and I love the barter system.. marjorie

  3. I think it’s wonderful that you are able to share your gifts and talents with a child. Delaney is very lucky, too! I hope this is the beginning of a new friendship for you and her.

  4. How wonderful , I can’t wait to see what she turns her patch into. Maria you must have a smile from ear to ear !

  5. And another generation to carry on “Wulf Howling!”

    I think someday, Delaney will look back on these lessons as some of the most favorite days in her life. No matter what you do, Maria, you rock.

  6. How sweet it must be to see, and be part of, the next generation learning a creative skill. You sound like a loving teacher, Maria.

    (I sure wish someone would have taught me how to sew and enjoy it! I am so afraid of the machine and of ‘failing’ to be creative. I know, I know: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”)

    1. I used to be afraid of electric typewriters Hazel. The humming they made always made me nervous, like it was saying “come on, type faster”

  7. Awesome ! My daughter was about Delaney’s age when she wanted to learn – a few quilts for her baby dolls, then quilts (made from cut up jeans) which were entered in the local fair – pillow cases, then tote bags -and now repurposing mens’ dress shirts into skirts and pillow cases … I’m sure you are a wonderful instructor : ) I have 2 singers from the 1950s – found them curbside (with manuals and all accessories !) – they are beautiful – just needed tune ups from an expert at our local sewing shop – no longer clunky, they are smooth as can be and sooo beautiful. ps This particular sewing shop has summer camp (1 week intervals) for pre-teens and teens – how fun is that ?!

    1. Sounds like your daughter is busy with her sewing,and creative too. I know it’s become popular again. Good idea about getting a tuneup for the old machine, Leanne

  8. This brings back wonderful memories for me. My mother taught me to sew when I was Delaney’s age. My father was so impressed he bought me my own sewing machine — best. Christmas. ever.

  9. How wonderful it is for Delaney to learn how to sew from you. This is just great! Sewing is relaxing, besides a good and useful skill to have. I love those old black Singer machines. They always did the best button holes.

  10. Well, it looks like she had a wonderful teacher, a wonderful time and wonderful result! What more could anyone ask for! Happy Weekend! Love, mare

  11. What wonderful gifts you each gave the other. I would have cherished a teacher as kind as you, Maria; and I’ll bet Delaney has opened yet another facet(and faucet:) of your creativity. SWEET!

  12. Maria, how wonderful. I wish I had had such a tender and loving teacher. I learned to sew in high school, when my mother made me take Sewing and Tailoring classes. I grudgingly took the classes with a critical home ec teacher but now glad I did. Everything else has been self taught, and I have gone on to make wedding dresses, including my daughter’s. But what I would have given, to be taught by someone like you!

  13. How beautiful to teach a young person something they want to learn! I found out that if you know how to do it, and they want to do it, too, and you love the person, teaching is natural. And your blog about the two Bedlam Farms was so beautiful that I wept reading it! Annie

  14. My sewing friends call me a youngster (at 35 a youngster is a good thing) but I have to use my 1960 era singer. It feels so sturdy and strong. I feel like I can create anything with it. For me, I know others love them, but for me the new plastic machines with all the automated stitches feels like I could break it at any moment. I love my heavy, clunky machine.

    I love that Delany is using the older singer and wants to learn to sew. How much fun! My grandmother and great aunt taught me. My great aunt actually taught sewing classes in the 50s, 60, and 70s. I even have a newspaper article about her classes. Always makes me smile.

  15. So fun to see Delaney on your blog, Maria! So lucky to have you as teacher and mentor! What a wonderful experience. Thank you so much!

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